Monday, April 11, 2016

The beauty of Prague

Main square in Prague

Prague is everything people say it is and more. When I visited it, I didn’t expect it to be so modern and trendy. In the James Bond film, “Casino Royale,” the shots with their red carpets and old hotels, made the city feel like it was stuck in time in the 1940s. But you'll find its a trendy and sophisticated mix of the classics and modern architecture, food and style. 

Photo crashing a wedding. She was so beautiful in the early morning in her gown.

Prague has somehow managed to take the best of the modern world while still keeping its charming old world appeal, which made it even better than what I expected.

It was also safer, cleaner and friendlier - although the taxi drivers will pretend their credit card machines don't work, but that also happens in Miami and Paris.

John Lennon's wall

Random wanderer or guided tour?

So do you need a tour guide? No…not really. You can wonder the streets, the old Square and most of the sights quite easily.   As mentioned earlier, it's also pretty safe.  However, in the Old Square, you will find a lot of restaurants geared toward tourists and shops full of souvenirs.  Not much else.

One of the many arched streets in Prague

But you will also find amazing architecture.

I recommend going early in the morning (before 9am) if you want to get good photos and have the Charles Bridge to yourself. After 9am, the square and the popular tourist sights are packed – really packed.

Notice the lack of people. I was up at 7am and had the place to myself.  Also note the English on the wall. You know this is going to be tourist haven.

That being said, Prague has a lot of history and that is where a tour guide can come in handy. Unless you read up on your own beforehand, you’ll miss details and the importance of some of the buildings and statues. 

The medieval astronomical clock located in Prague's Old Square. The clock was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating.

Getting a tour is easy. There are two free walking tours a day (the guides are paid in tips) that start in the Old Square, and then there are numerous other tours – from Segways and bicycles to bus tours.

Food and beer in Prague

Speaking of tours…there are a number of beer tours available. These can range from pub crawls to visiting and beer-tastings in nearby breweries. There is even a monastery that makes its own beer.

Potato pancakes

Unfortunately, I’m not a beer drinker so these were wasted on me. I did try local wine and must admit, it was not fantastic (the server did warn me, but still I had to try). 

What I did try and what was fantastic were potato pancakes with sauerkraut. These were soooo incredible. I normally don’t like potato pancakes. My mom used to make them for us when we were kids and I always felt like we were being punished for something when they appeared on my plate. I ate them, but they sucked. I now know that not all potato pancakes are the same. They can be great. (sorry, Mom.)

Prague at night

Prague transforms into a different city in the evening.

The castle, which looks like so many other castles during the day, becomes magical. It in the moonlight it could be home of Dracula…or a Disney Princess. It dominates the square and sets the mood that you are in for an amazing evening.


The streets are still full of people at night, but the vibe is different and less crowded. There are a lot of jazz venues and live music places. The bars come alive and the people - local and tourists open up to conversation.

With a castle like this and the moonlight, you know it can only lead to a night to remember.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Running in Prague

John Lennon's Wall in Prague

Last year I got really lost in Madrid while on a run. I mean really lost. The first 90 minutes were great. I was running through the streets in the early morning and thinking it was a beautiful city. The only people I saw were drunk people walking home from the bar (it was 6:00 am) and there were hardly any cars on the road. Then I realized I had no idea where I was.

I had no money on me, my hotel key was so “cool” it was black with no words and I couldn’t speak Spanish. The next two hours of running while lost were not fun.

I need a running guardian angel

The problem with European cities is that they are old. Most of them aren’t built on a grid system like the cities in the US. Instead the roads are tiny and spiral out from the main square or cathedral. And for people like me who don’t have an amazing internal compass, chances are we won’t get far before we don’t know where we are.

Charles Bridge in Prague seen on my running tour

Thankfully, running has become so popular, that some cities have running guides. Until now, I have only read about these guides in Runner’s World but I had never tried one. The reason for this is that I’m a little embarrassed at how slow I run and I’m not really a great conversationalist when running. Once I’m in the zone, my mind kind of drifts off and does other things which may explain why I get lost so often.

Getting out of the tourist zone with Running Tours Prague

This past weekend, I was in Prague — another old and not built on a grid city. Before I arrived, I looked on the map to see where my hotel was and to see if I could map out a running route. Nope. It was going to be complicated. Plus, I don’t like running on cobblestone so I would need to find a path that was paved or dirt. It was time to try a running guide.

Devil’s Creek in Prague

Running Tours Prague to the rescue

I found through google and they had everything I wanted. I wanted to run for about two hours. I wanted to see some sites, but mostly I wanted to run in the parks and non-cobblestone areas. And I really didn’t want someone to talk to me as I was staying in the Old Square and could get a history lesson on the city from one of the walking tours in the area later on.

Oh…and I wanted them to get me from my hotel instead of me trying to find them somewhere in a city I didn’t know.

Me with Andy my Prague running tour guide

Andy, my guide, was there to meet me exactly at 7 am on Sunday morning. I told him the plan and off we went. He took me along the river, through parks and around the outside of the city through all the green spaces. We climbed hills to see the city from above and then weaved our way back to my hotel. He let me stop and take photos when I wanted and never made me feel like a turtle. It was wonderful.

Prague from the top of another hill

In fact, it was so wonderful that I ran with him again the next morning. This time we started earlier and he took me on a completely different route that was still away from the tourists.

Devil's Creek in Prague

He asked me what I had seen the day before on my own and when I told him, he made sure we ran past a few of the cool things I had missed like The John Lennon Wall, the weird giant babies, Devil’s Creek, the upside down horse statue, the monastery where they brew their own beer and a couple other places.

Weird baby statues in Prague

The miles passed by quickly. For those two hours each day, Andy was my running guardian angel leading me through the maze of streets so I could relax and just enjoy my run.

I’m telling you, seeing Prague through the eyes of runner is the only way to do it.